Gloomy Sunday

In honor of the Pitchfork Music Festival, here’s a collection of different versions of “Gloomy Sunday,” the “Hungarian Suicide Song”:

There have been several urban legends regarding the song over the years, mostly involving it being allegedly connected with various numbers of suicides, and radio networks reacting by purportedly banning the song. However, most of these claims are unsubstantiated.

In 1968, Rezső Seress, the original composer, jumped to his death from his apartment.

Rezső Seress

OK, lots of versions are after the jump. Listen…if you dare!

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Why Genre Will Prevail, in Peace and Freedom from Fear, and in True Health, through the Purity and Essence of Its Natural Fluids, God Bless You All

re: John M. recently quoting something that Paul wrote at his blog, and re: Roxane’s recent post and the resulting epic thread regarding writing and its worth, I’d like to pick a bit more at the bones of genre fiction.

I love genre, because genres are basically conventions. They’re expectations that both authors and readers (and editors, and sales people) bring to a text—suggestions as to what should be inside, and how it should be arranged. And I dearly love conventions, because they’re the very stuff of communication, and of artistic structure—whether we’re obeying them, or departing from them.

I’ve never really understood what some people mean when they talk about “exploding genres” and “writing between genres,” and so forth, because I myself can think of very little writing that is pure genre. Most literature that I read—even the more conventional things—already exist between multiple genres.

Consider The Lord of the Rings.

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My Favorite New Movies of 2009

[Update: 2010 is here] [and 2011 is here]

Here are my favorite new movies of 2009, like you care. I’m drawing from the films I saw in the theater this year, some of which were “officially” released a year or two ago. But they’re all new.

NOT one of my favorite films this year

…So, Mr. Cranky, what did you like?

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James Kaelen’s Best of 2009

When John asked me to compose some sort of “best of” list for 2009, I thought immediately of film. Though I’ve read voraciously this year, most of the books I’ve consumed were written in the 20th Century. When I’m writing, I’m very particular about what I read. While editing my book We’re Getting On, I was reading Samuel Beckett’s Molloy and Malone Dies. While finishing Brute and Other Stories I read Cheever’s collected stories, The Sun Also Rises, and Jim Harrison’s The Man Who Gave Up His Name. That said, of the contemporary fiction I did manage to read, I was especially astounded by Kyle Minor’s In the Devil’s Territory — specifically the novella “A Day Meant to Do Less” which, slipping in and out of madness, contains at least forty of the most tormenting pages I’ve read recently. (In the Devil’s Territory actually came out in 2008, but who cares).

I did, though, see a number of films this year. I live in Los Angeles, and there are two independent theatres within easy walking distance, so I had almost no choice in the matter. Of the pictures that left the deepest impression on me, here are my top five, in particular order:

1. Antichrist — Lars von Trier directs one of the vilest things ever committed to celluloid. There were moments when I felt I would faint, and I pride myself on my constitution. Antichrist wasn’t the best film of the year, but no film has ever affected me so physically. I had to sit through all the credits just to gain the strength to stand.

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Lars von Trier’s Slippery, Sloppy Antichrist


Lars has made some very good movies in his time. Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville are all examples of exciting, provocative cinema. And now comes this–thing.

I’m very mixed about this motion picture. Not torn up, not oozing, like after Eyes Wide Shut. There are some beautiful images in this film, the black and white prologue showing an erect penis going into a vagina has to be one of the most gorgeous shots of the sex act I’ve ever seen. The unnamed couple, Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, then spend the next hour of the movie talking out their grief (mainly hers) after their young son fell out a window and died while they were in the throes of sex during the prologue. The film goes to color and it becomes a weird incarnation of therapist and patient (Dafoe plays an actual therapist). This interplay continues even as the couple goes to a cabin in the woods, their “Eden.” After a few days there, Gainsbourg says she is cured, but Dafoe does not believe her and continues trying to help her breathe, “Five, four, three…”

At times a David Lynchesque soundtrack comes on signaling something weird is going to happen. (Having just seen Inland Empire and being a fan of Blue Velvet, this touch seemed off-putting, as did Gainsbourg’s request to have Dafoe hit her during sex–another obvious borrowing from Blue Velvet.) The weird happenings are somewhat interesting–a deer running with a dead foetus stuck to its behind, a fox that is eating itself and then speaks English to a seemingly reserved Dafoe. He is the only one having these visions (if they are visions). Then, in the attic of the cabin, Dafoe finds Gainsbourg’s notes for a thesis (called Gynocide) she had been writing that doesn’t come to fruition, (film is fuzzy concerning whether it is finished). Arcane pictures, woodcuts in the manner of Dürer, and three never before heard of constellations in the sky called the Three Beggars–a deer, a fox and a crow (don’t worry the crow is coming).

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